The NGP has reared its mighty head, and with it comes the inevitable question, "What about the games?" Details are scarce, but Sony has confirmed that Wipeout, Killzone, Call of Duty, and Little Big Planet will be making appearances on the new system. Resistance will also be coming to the NGP, though now in the hands of Nihilistic Software. Their previous work has included Vampire: the Masquerade - Redemption, and the vaporware classic, Starcraft: Ghost. MGS IV poked its head up, though Hideo Kojima stated that fans should not take it as any more than a demonstration of the NGP's performance. Nonetheless, I felt the bitter, half-remembered flashback of the FFVII "tech demo" that rightly caused ire among the masses. The demo did at least seem to be real-time rendering, as evidenced by the framerate. It's not bad by handheld standards; the performance of MGS4 on the NGP was roughly comparable to Portable Ops's performance against PS2 Metal Gear games. However, one can be certain that Kojima & Co. most likely have something lovely planned for the NGP. I for one would be perfectly fine without a portable incarnation of MGS IV, as my bone-deep loathing of porting is well known among my close friends (Prince of Persia Revelations: Never Forget), on account of the fact that it rarely, notable exceptions aside, produces anything of substantial worth.
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Little Deviants (video included below) showcases the utility of the rear touchpad rather nicely. While I'm still not sold on the idea, I give Sony a handful of kudos for attempting to address my biggest problem with touch-screen games: obstruction of the screen during gameplay.
Sony aims to make the NGP a more social gaming experience than its predecessor, which leads to one of its more notable features: 3G capability. Japanese gamers will be able to receive service through NTT DoCoMo, but thus far there's been no word as to who will be providing service for North American gamers. There will certainly be a cost, according to Sony's Andrew House, who said only that "you'll hear more from us around that aspect of the strategy as we get closer to launch." It may be the next logical step in multiplayer gaming -- no more searching for an open wireless connection while you're out and about -- and the potential for downloading games on the go lends itself rather nicely to 3G, but I'm approaching the prospect with a healthy dose of skepticism. Given the PSP's rather shoddy track record with compelling games, I can't imagine paying any amount of money for 3G service on the NGP. One also needs to take into consideration that many newer cell phones offer the "mobile hotspot" feature. Granted, most of these plans carry a cost, but with 4G chugging along, the less-than-stellar 3G performance (I have 3G on my phone, and I'm not terribly impressed) will seem notably less attractive as the years roll on. Sony has wisely chosen to have separate SKUs for wifi and non-wifi models, an option for consumers that will certainly help to push some extra units. Personally, I'd just assume have a wifi-only NGP and save a few bucks. Sony has also jumped on the touch-screen bandwagon, which in addition to shaking up the standard button mashing of the PSP's gameplay, is sure be a great benefit to the general interface, as well as making messaging and internet browsing much, much easier. The system also boosts an accelerometer, and most exciting of all, a second analog stick. That's right: gone are the days of holding down the shoulder button to switch to "camera mode," contorting my fingers to try to simultaneously operate both the d-pad and the analogue stick, and all the other experiences that are, in the words of the great british comedian Chris Morris, "pop-riveted into the scarred bonnet of my memory."
As always, Sony has the potential to make this a truly incredible system -- keyword, "potential." It's a graphical powerhouse, its features shine like the newly-risen sun, and while I'm not as taken with it as I am by the 3DS, I'm happy to eat at least a few of my words about Sony's business model revolving entirely around blasting customers with a shotgun full of pixels at point blank range, with no concern for ingenuity. It all looks absolutely stunning on paper -- my first thought was something along the lines of "I must have it" -- but i can't shake the feeling that we've been here before with the PSP, the mighty behemoth of gaming goodness that ended up being coated in a thick layer of dust on my closet shelf for months on end. I'm hoping with all my little-boy heart that it will rise to the hype that's sure to follow, but Sony would be wise to remember that without solid games, the NGP will be little more than a sleek and sexy doorstop.